Quick. Without using the search powers of Google, how many octaves does our national anthem span?
I pondered this very question at work yesterday, though not out of idle curiosity.
So before you read on, take a moment, and sing the (U.S.) national anthem to yourself and figure out the range. No peaking at scores, no instrumental aids, and no internet; just your voice.
If you answered 1.5 octaves (or an octave plus a fifth, which is not exactly 1.5) that is what I got. Sans score, sans piano, and sans Google, I'd like to add.
I started singing the tune in my head: "Oh-h say" (paused here, noted that this is the lowest note, which I arbitrarily called "do" and continued on)
"can you see, by" (noted that so far, it goes to a mi above the octave). . .
"rocket's red" (highest note: a fifth above the octave. Total range: 1.5 octaves.)
Well, I would like to know what version the SF Chron folks sing, b/c theirs evidently spans 2.5 octaves.
Now, there is an arrangement of the Star-Spangled Banner that we sometimes do, in which the top soprano part goes a fourth above the highest note (a high c, in our version) after one beat on "free-ee", in which case, that particular version spans 2 octaves, but even then, we're still a fifth shy of whatever version the SF Chron has in mind.
Hmm. I suppose this is the sort of thing that copy editors don't necessarily catch, b/c it's not a grammatical error? Still, you would think that it would be easy enough to do a Google search and do a little fact-checking.
(And not to nitpick, but websites that are in the business of writing (and I'm not talking about personal blogs or websites of artistic organizations, here.) really ought to learn the html for m-dashes and use them properly; or at least use two hyphens like the WSJ does. They're quite different from hyphens.)
Either way, the author's main point still holds—that the anthem is hard to sing. . .well.
Which made me wonder, are there (vocal) pieces that span 2.5 octaves? I mean, that's a pretty impressive range.
I couldn't think of any off the top of my head, but remembered the choral sections of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony being extremely annoying to sing, because of its ridiculously high range, so I checked my score. Well, the soprano section spans from a d to a freaking high b above the staff, so the range is greater than the national anthem, but not quite two octaves.
The other one I vaguely remembered having a high range is the soprano solo in Mozart's Mass in C-minor. Sure enough, within the first few pages of the soprano solo entrance in the Kyrie, Mozart has the soprano soloist go from an a-flat below the staff to a high a-flat—a jump of 2 octaves in just under 3 notes flat!
Later in Et incarnatus est, Mozart expects the soloist's voice to span from a low b (below the staff) to a high c, which is more than a 2-octave span.
I suspect that the Queen of the Night aria from the Magic Flute also has a pretty wide range, but I do not have the score to verify this.